Hi! I am so sorry for the long delay. I have been keeping busy, but also not having internet where I live has deterred my from writing as often. I think that next week I am going to buy one of those internet hotspot things, so that I can use my phone and computer wherever I am, and won’t continue to be so out of touch. Since I’m about three weeks behind now, I will try not to go into as much detail and instead give you an overview of all my wonderful adventures!
I think that the last time I blogged, I had been to Tsarskoye Selo, where Catherine’s Palace is. That was Saturday the 8th (geez… I’m so behind!). The next day, Sunday, I went to Kazan Cathedral, and the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. Kazan Cathedral was beautiful on the inside. It is a working church, which in Russia means: 1. It’s free to enter, of course. 2. Men have to take off their hats, and women must cover their heads with a scarf or hood or hat. 3. You’re not allowed to take pictures or use a cell phone while inside. So, Clare and I went in together, it was a very lovely experience. So many of these churches have incredible gilded icons, which at first, I though was amazing, but on Wednesday, I finished reading Mother by Maxim Gorky (not his real name) and know I feel like it’s…. how can I say? Like, “They have gilded our God” and the church is just pandering to the wealthy upper class. I don’t know. Still, it’s a sight worth seeing, and there is still a long list of cathedrals I plan on visiting. We were only there for probably 15 minutes, and then Clare left me and I went to the Church of the Spilled Blood. Talk about a sight worth seeing. It’s incredibly overwhelming. However, it doesn’t really feel like a church, the way it is decorated on the inside. Every square inch of the interior is covered in very brightly colored mosaics, depicting scenes of the life of Christ or commemorating the life of Tsar Alexander II. It is truly incredible, but being there is more like being at an art gallery than a church. I will post pictures.
On Wednesday the 12th, I invited all of my roommates to come see an opera with me! When I had been in one of the metro stations, I saw a poster for something about Eugene Onegin (Евгений Онегин) at the Mikhaylovskiy Theater (Михайловский Театр), so I looked it up, and it turned out that it was a contemporary opera performance! I also realized that the music was composed by Tchaikovsky (Чайковскйй), so I felt like I had to go, and it turned out that all of my roommates wanted to go too! So on Wednesday afternoon I read Eugene Onegin, the “novel in verse” as it’s called (because it’s a poem the length of a novel) and then we got all dressed up and went to the theater! It was… certainly an experience. I guess I didn’t understand what it meant when they said it was a “contemporary” performance; in this case it meant really strange. There were countless scenes of milk being poured on people heads while they were singing, a small stream of water coming from the ceiling and dripping on their heads, a very small dwarf doing strange things like sitting in a refrigerator, an old man that never did anything relevant, a man dressed kind of in “drag” walking around during a party scene… I was so overwhelmed. During the first intermission, I just had no clue what to think, or what was going on, or how I was supposed to feel about it. During some scenes all of the Russians would laugh, so I suppose sometimes it wasn’t supposed to make sense. But, in the end, I really enjoyed it! It was different, and not at all what I was expecting, but during the last bit of the performance, some of these strange things kind of started to make sense. When it was over, I knew two things: 1. that I loved Tchaikovsky and wanted to go to any performance where he wrote the music, and 2. that I did enjoy opera as a performance itself and would like to go back and see another one sometime! Except, perhaps a period opera rather than a contemporary one. Did I mention that it started at 7:00 and didn’t end until 11:00 and it was a school night? Yeah, we had no idea it would be that long.
Friday the 14th, Valentine’s Day, I went to the Peter and Paul Fortress to see the cathedral there. I wasn’t too thrilled by it. It was neat because some of the members of the Romanov family tombs were there, but the cathedral itself was quite small and not super special in my opinion. That wasn’t a great day for me, so I don’t have much to report on. That evening, Clare, Zack, Tasha and I all went to the grocery store and bought many bags of Russian candy and came home and dumped it all out on the floor and ate it! Most of the time, we had no idea what we were biting into, and Tasha has a nut allergy (though not super severe) so it was interesting and pretty funny to try all these strange candies. Though we did discover a few favorites and now we almost always have candy in the room! It was a nice ending to the day and a good start to the weekend.
On Monday the 17th, one of our resident directors, Matt (from Alabama, married to a Russian woman named Женя, 28 years old) set us up on this little program called “Conversation Partners”, where we signed up to go meet with Russians at a restaurant in town and essentially do “speed dating.” 12 of us Americans and 12 Russian students all agreed to come a talk, and the Americans switched seats every 5 minutes while the Russians stayed seated. At first, I was really nervous to speak to them in Russian. But it turned out that basically I had the same conversation 12 times. They would ask me, “What is your name? How do you spell it? Where are you from? How long have you studied Russian? Why did you come to St. Petersburg? Do you like it here?” It wasn’t bad, but still, I forgot most of what I know how to say and spoke a lot of English, because theirs was all very good. I really connected with one girl named Маша, Masha, who is 23 and lives with her parents either on or near Nevsky Prospect. She is graduating this semester and actually studies at my university! So after conversation partners was over, she and I and some other students all went to dinner together, and I gave her my contact information. I hope to see her again in the next few days!
Wednesday the 19th, all of us students that had applied for a home stay went to meet our families for dinner! I bought my family flowers (цевты – tsevti), as customary before hand. It is tradition to never buy an even number of flowers, because those are only used at funerals, and also not yellow flowers, though I’m not sure why. I bought them 3 flowers, a green and pink and white one, although I can’t remember their names! I will check when I am connected to internet. My family is an older woman named Людмила Александровна Иванова – Lyudmila Alexandrovna Ivanova, who is the owner of the apartment, and her daughter Tatiana, and Tatiana’s daughter whose name I can’t remember. Tatiana’s daughter is only a couple of years older than me, 23 I think, but she wasn’t there that night, so I haven’t met her. Tatiana came and picked me up from the dorm, and brought me to their apartment. It’s at my same metro stop, which is nice that it’s not further way from the center of the city. When I arrived I had to take off my yucky shoes and put on bedroom slippers (тапочки – tapochki) which is customary, and I gave Lyudmila her flowers, which she thought were beautiful and put in a vase! Then I was served dinner, which consisted of three different kinds of “salad” (though not like salad at home), bread with cheese, and small slices of meat. I only tried two of the salads, one I liked and one I didn’t. The salads here are more like what we call chicken salad, or tuna salad, or whatever. It’s a cold salad with different vegetables or meat cut very thin and mixed with vinegar or mayonnaise. I’m not too fond of these salads, usually, but I try to try them anytime one of my friend orders them. I couldn’t tell you what was in the salad I ate that night. When I was finished though, I was very full! But then Lyudmila brought out another serving of food – this time, French fries and a piece of chicken! Hahahah! I laughed when she brought it out to me. The fries were frozen, and I realize now that she puts them in a pan and sort of just heats them up, so they were very soft when she brought them out to me. I think she made them because she has been hosting students for many years, and maybe they expressed how much they love French fries, so now she always makes them. I don’t know. Anyway, after dinner, they brought out a few big photo albums and showed me their family and their friends and places they have been and their old students… and then they brought out this atlas book which was very detailed, so I showed them High Point, and Asheville, and New Smyrna Beach! That was a pretty cool thing for me, to be able to point to my exact city and say that’s where I live. But soon enough, it was time for me to go home. It’s about a 25-minute walk from their apartment to the metro station, and then 35 minutes to the dorm/university. So… not too bad. I think that coming home at night from the metro is going to be the only time that the walk seems long. I forgot to mention that Lyudmila speaks no English, and Tatiana speaks a little, but doesn’t understand my responses very well (and is an elementary school teacher, I think), and then I think that Tatiana’s daughter speaks English, but I’m not 100% sure. I’ll find out when I meet her, I guess!
So, I think that I’ll stop here, and on Sunday I will catch up from Thursday the 20th through Sunday the 2nd. But I will go ahead and mention that yesterday afternoon, Thursday the 27th, I moved in with my family! So far I have only been hanging out with Lyudmila, because (if I understood correctly) Tatiana and her daughter were at the theater last night until very late. Most of the time, I can understand most of what Lyudmila says, but she has a hard time understanding me. She is very sweet to me though, and is always asking me if I need to eat anything or if I want tea. I’ve noticed that sometimes she can be a little forgetful, and will do things like use one spoon to stir a pot, then set it down, then the next time she stirs the pot, she’ll get a new spoon from the drawer; or one time she put a dirty dish back in the cabinet, so I went behind her and washed it when she left the kitchen. I think I’m going to really like living here though! I like my little room and feel like I will be more focused here than I was in the dorm. So all is well, and I’m as happy as can be!
I need to go, but I will catch up again soon, I PROMISE!